What is employee engagement? There are many views on this buzzword. A simple definition is “a result that is achieved by stimulating and directing employees’ enthusiasm for their work and directing it toward organisational success”.

In return, employees make far greater discretionary effort and deliver superior performance. Estimates vary from 19-40 per cent. In other words, they willingly go the extra mile.

Frederick Herzberg’s theory of motivation with the “hygiene” (or maintenance) factors underpinning the motivators has stood the test of time. As long as the foundations are strong, the key motivators will kick in. If the foundations are rocky then it will be difficult to get the same impact.

Research shows the main reason people leave their jobs is how they view their boss. Effective leadership and management help staff feel in tune with the values and ethos of the organisation.

Poor leadership and management are likely to cloud most other aspects of the organisation and disengage the workforce.

What part does reward play? Herzberg’s view is that as reward is usually only short-term, its value to the employee diminishes quickly. If the reward is so poor it does not cover the basic necessities in life then this is a key hygiene or maintenance factor that people will not tolerate. Where the reward is sufficient, the most important aspect is “fair pay”. If this is not right, employees can quickly disengage.

The biggest influence on employees’ behaviour is non-financial. Employees want to feel valued and have recognition. Research agrees on these eight main drivers:

  • Trust and integrity - how well managers communicate and walk the talk and how much autonomy employees are given
  • Nature of the job - is it mentally stimulating day to day?
  • Line of sight between employee performance and organisation performance - understanding how their work contributes to the overall organisation performance
  • Career development opportunities - are there any?
  • Pride about the organisation
  • Co-workers/team members - a good team spirit and environment significantly influences engagement
  • Employee development
  • Relationship with direct manager.

Closely linked is work-life balance and how well the organisation values employees’ outside life as something that affects how well they work.

Demographic and cultural differences also affect engagement. The physical and working environment plays a part, although often staff will put up with a poorer environment if the other main drivers are strong.

Organisations should conduct regular “reality/health checks” on engagement levels. Leadership and management are fundamental to employee engagement.

Is your organisation ensuring a key part of your management teams’ development focuses on their ability to positively influence the workforce?

This will clearly be an excellent investment in time and money.